France, football, colonialism: Take the best, leave the rest | idea

As the 2022 Qatar World Cup sees the formerly colonial peoples face off against the former colonial powers on the football field, conversations about the “scar of the past present” are sure to erupt both. online and in real life. In particular, France, which has played against both Tunisia and Morocco, has found itself in the midst of them.

Amid this buzz and the general excitement of the World Cup, a relevant piece of news seems to have caught the eye of the global media. On December 12, the European Union announced it is establishing “a joint military mission” in Niger to support the “war on terror”.

The mission, under the command of French Vice Admiral Hervé Bléjean, will last three years and cost around 27.3 million euros. But why is the EU spending millions in Niger amid the cost of living crisis at home? And why would it pour millions of dollars into a military mission when the target country is one of the poorest in the world and that country’s population would benefit more from socioeconomic support? festival?

The answer lies in France, a leading member of the EU, which has shown a keen interest in deepening ties with the Niger government over the past few years. Some of the possibilities may be related to the fact that Niger’s uranium powers France’s nuclear power plants – a major source of energy for the country amid the energy crisis. And some of that may also have to do with Niger’s important position as a transit country for thousands of migrants and refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean – that is. most dangerous frontier around the world – in search of safety and a good livelihood in Europe.

But what does Niger – a country that did not qualify for the World Cup – have to do with French football?

More than it seems. France has pursued success in football the same way it has pursued economic power – through exploitation.

The French team that led the country to the World Cup final was dominated by players from diverse backgrounds, many with roots in former French colonies in Africa. For example, Kylian Mbappé, who won the Golden Shoe of the World Cup, was born in France to an Algerian mother and a Cameroonian father.

In response to comments about the origins of French football players, French officials have firmly asserted their “French nature”. They have refused to mention their origins as racist.

But that’s not really the case. Like Trevor Noah shown back in 2018 in a similar debate about inclusivity and overlapping identity, “When I say [French players are] Africans, I am not trying to exclude them from their Frenchness but to include them in my Africanity.”

But to go beyond that – France has adopted a distinctly selective assimilation approach towards people of African descent; it’s very special about who can be French. Only a few of the many immigrants and refugees who want to come to France and live there are deemed worthy of French citizenship, and many people of African descent who were born in the country face discrimination against them. structurally treated and not considered fully French.

Every year, France deports more than 10,000 people who came to this country, looking for safety and a better life. Others relegated to a life of suffering and violence follow the country’s strict anti-immigration laws and enforcement, often criticized by human rights groups. The path to becoming French for immigrants and refugees seems to be reserved for only a select few.

There are also people who are French citizens on paper but don’t seem to enjoy the “status” of being French. Take France’s Muslim community as an example. It accounts for about 8% of the French population, however, between 40% and 70% of those held in French prisons are Muslims, mostly from the former French colonies in Africa.

The community suffers from impoverishment and high dropout rates and is isolated in the peripheries of the city. It was also systematically supplemented by mainstream politicians who openly embrace anti-Islamism and accused Muslims of being “radical” and threatening French values.

In other words, France engages in inclusiveness in cherry picking, which tends to be more exclusion than inclusion. Mbappé is French because he is a talented footballer; a young man of North African descent born in France imprisoned for some crime, or simply unemployed and relegated to the peripheries of inequality is called “banlieueson the other hand, is usually just “Arabic”.

This cherry-picking inclusiveness is also an expression of neo-colonialism, through which France harnesses human talent from its former colonies and rejects the rest who are unworthy. Indeed, colonialism is exactly that: it takes and absorbs the best from other lands, while denying everything else, and in exchange for little, if any.

And this brings us back to Niger, where France has been mining uranium for decades, giving very little to the people of Niger and worse, contaminate their land and water. While reaping the benefits of the energy generated by cheap uranium, France has done little to help the people of Niger, only 13% of which have access to electricity.

Niger also uses the CFA franc as its currency, a colonial relic that economically binds the former French colonies to Paris. About 50% of the currency reserves of 14 African countries, including Niger, are still under full French control today; As a result, none of them have any control over their monetary and macroeconomic policy. France earns billions of euros from Africa every year in the form of “reserved”, and lends a portion of it to its owner at the market interest rate.

It is no coincidence that Niger’s main highway, on which many mined resources are transported to Niamey and other strategic areas, today follows the exact path of mass atrocities committed by the army. team of Paul Voulet, the captain of the French army, who in 1899 sought to perform. won control of Lake Chad to France before Great Britain got there.

Much has changed since colonial times, but mining in Africa continues with corrupt governments in many African countries ensuring the “stability” needed to carry out these processes – among many other things, they receive weapons worth billions of euros for this purpose which they also use to crush internal dissent.

How to combat all this? There are no easy recipes. However, rejecting “carefully chosen inclusion”, especially evident in the case of France, would be a step in the right direction.

Another step might be to examine the legacy of Senegalese director and writer Ousmane Sembène, who has produced a number of works with the aim of promoting the reproduction of an African space rooted in values ​​and traditions. African cultural traditions have been largely lost. Sembène did not object to the influence of non-African cultures, including those of the (neo-colonial) peoples, but suggested that Africans accept them in a more discerning and understanding way. . This is probably the way forward.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.


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